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20110916_MCISD_CollegeFair_JB_0029MISSION — Seniors crowded the Neuhaus Gym floor at Mission High School during a College Fair Tuesday morning asking college, university and military representatives about continuing their education. Over 1,300 students were able to walk through and visit with the representatives.

The Mission Consolidated Independent School District has made the College Fair available to seniors for over 20 years. Now with two high schools, the school district alternates which school hosts the event each year. Juniors from the hosting high school were also given the opportunity to attend. While some students may know what they want to do after high school, many more students are still trying to decide. The fair gives the students a chance to touch base with recruiters face-to-face, district officials said.

Mission High School Principal Joe Lopez said it is a great opportunity for the students to network and establish relationships with the university recruiters and admission counselors.

“Our hope and our goal is that they find a school that fits their needs and that they are able to go off and continue their university study at one of the schools that’s here present with us today,” said Lopez. “We see this as not just a short-term gain for the students, but a long-term relationship for them to have. It’s a partnership for most of the students when they are going to a university. They need to select a school or university that they’re going to be comfortable with and feel successful with and be successful.”

Lopez said because of a struggling economy for public institutions in Texas, and other states, he was surprised at how many colleges showed up.

“We welcome them with open arms because for them not making a trip down here to South Texas to visit with our students from both high schools, our students may not have that opportunity in terms of getting transportation to go and even visit or consult with these universities,” he said. “So it’s very beneficial for all of our students.”

20110916_MCISD_CollegeFair_JB_0008Lopez said he recently sat down with two seniors that were asking about the college application process.

“I believe opportunities like this helps them solidify maybe some of that uneasiness, or maybe a little bit of that senior nervousness, that they experience,” Lopez said. “Getting to hear first hand from the admission counselors, I think, it is a great opportunity for them because they get to find out exactly what the universities are looking for and what they can do to give themselves the best chance to earn scholarships, as well as both academic, athletic or extracurricular.”

Students wandered from table to table, asking questions and gathering information from the colleges for about an hour. Most students left with pamphlets, pens and bags from almost all of the representatives that were there.

Lauren Gonzalez, a senior at Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS), said she was there to get information about colleges and universities in Texas.

“I am excited for college,” said Gonzalez. “I wanted to look at Texas schools. I want to go out of state, but also Texas schools in case I do want to stay. It’s a big part of my life.”

She also said that she would like to study law or medical but wanted to go into college undecided and take her basic courses first so she can make a better decision about what she wanted to do. She recently found out she was accepted to her dream school, Iowa State University.

“I visited this summer and I fell in love,” she said.

Ana Hernandez, another senior from VMHS, was visiting the Wellesley College table. She said she was considering attending because of the experiences she would get to have and the programs the college offers.

“(It’s) something different,” she said of the school. “It will get me out of my little box.”

Hernandez is considering majoring in biology or pre-med. She wants to be an emergency room physician.

Wellesley College Admissions Counselor Noemí Fernández said the school, an all-women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts, guarantees to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial aid for all of their students. The college does not consider students’ financial situation when applying to the college. Wellesley is one of the top 10 liberal arts colleges in the nation.

“There’s no other place where you can experience community and academics and rigor at that level like you can at Wellesley,” said Fernández.

At the University of Texas at Austin table, Alma Rodriguez and Natasha Perez were getting information from the admissions counselor about their programs. Both girls want to be veterinarians.

Rodriguez said she wants to attend UT-Austin because it is close to family she has in the area.

“We want to get out basics at a good school. We have to get our bachelors degree before we enter any medical or veterinary college,” said Rodriguez. “We have to be at the top of our class, with good SAT and ACT scores.”

Perez added she needs to make good grades, as well, nothing less than a B average.

David Eric Garcia, a UT admission’s counselor, said they have been able to provide brochures, business cards and as much information as they can while they are there so students know what is required of them.

Garcia works out of the Rio Grande Valley regional office in Harlingen that serves the entire Rio Grande Valley.

“We are dedicated to get the students up to Austin and be successful,” he said.

The representative at Texas A&M-Galveston, Angelica Moreno, the assistant director of diversity and multicultural education, said the main purpose of being at the fair is getting the word out there that college is a reality for a lot of students.

The school, located on an island, is a specialized university offering classes that deal with marine biology, maritime industries and seamanship. They are currently at record enrollment with just over 2,000 enrolled this semester.

“Students don’t really have that exposure to programs like ours, so hopefully by being at these fairs, we’re able to give them that idea that there are programs out there like the ones we offer,” she said.

The university offers several bachelor and graduate programs and a doctorate program in marine biology.

At Risk Counselor at Mission High School Zina Acevedo said the fair exposes students to what’s available to them and what the entrance requirements are, as well.

“It’s an informative type session for our kids and hoping they come out with good information so they can make good decisions about their future,” said Acevedo.

All seniors are required to go to the fair and are encouraged to walk around and visit all of the representatives, even if they have an idea of where they want to go or what they want to do. She said they want the students to get as much information as possible.

The students are usually looking for programs of study, what the university has to offer academically, what the entrance requirements are and what they need in order to be accepted. She added that some big selling points with some of the colleges are the extracurricular activities in the area of sports.

Financial aid information was also available from the representatives. The colleges explained what financial aid is available and provided links to their website, the federal financial aid website. They also discussed what scholarships were available.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to get as much information as possible,” Acevedo said, adding that the event gives students something to work toward.

As students usually have follow up questions, even months after the event, school officials said they would provide help with the application process and applying for financial aid through the College Bound program.

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